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Thumbs up: Children get their schools back

It’s hard to think of an action more worthy of a thumbs up this week than the procession of police and fire trucks leading a caravan of school buses filled with students of John B. Riebli Elementary. Where were they headed? To school – for the first time since the firestorm of early October. In many ways it’s a miracle that Riebli Elementary is even standing given the destruction all around it. It ended up being an oasis in the middle of a massive Tubbs fire burn zone, but it was not a healthy environment for students. So for the past two months, Reibli’s K-2 students had been relocated to Mark West Elementary while those in grades 3-6 were shifted to San Miguel Elementary.

But before students left for the break on Friday, they were given a sneak peek at what awaited them after the holidays. And there was nothing sneaky about this procession. The caravan of buses was escorted by emergency vehicles with lights flashing and sirens blaring. The buses were then welcomed by rows of parents, teachers and other school staff waving and holding signs bearing messages such as “Back where we belong.” True enough. Many of these children came from families that lost homes.

The same is true of students from Coffey Park’s Schaefer Elementary School, which somehow also survived the firestorm. That school, too, will be reopening after the holidays. Thumbs up to those who saved these places of learning and to those who got them ready to reopen. By the looks of things, these students will be among the happiest to be back at their desks in 2018.

Thumbs down: Was that a denial of a denial or of a lie?

America’s new ambassador to Holland appears to have a navigational issue when it comes to keeping his stories on course. Two years ago, Pete Hoekstra, a former Republican congressman from Michigan and former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, stirred up controversy when he said at a conference hosted by the David Horowitz Freedom Center that “The Islamic movement has now gotten to a point where they have put Europe into chaos. Chaos in the Netherlands, there are cars being burned, there are politicians that are being burned.” He added, “And yes, there are no-go zones in the Netherlands.” This came as a surprise to many, especially those in Holland who were not familiar with such encompassing dangers. But when a Dutch journalist asked Hoekstra, who was sworn in earlier this month as the U.S. ambassador to the Netherlands, about the comments, he denied making them. He called it “fake news.”

So what happened when the journalist showed Hoekstra a video of him making those very comments in 2015? He denied his denial. “I never called that fake news,” Hoekstra said.

If your head is spinning, you’re not alone. One of the headlines from the Netherlands noted how the new ambassador “lies about his own lies.” By his conduct, Hoekstra has shown himself to be poor representative of the United States. But he certainly well represents the person who appointed him. Thumbs down.

Thumbs up: To those who make the season bright

This last one is for all the volunteers who helped with Sonoma County Volunteer Center’s Secret Santa program, the Redwood Empire Food Bank and the many other local nonprofits that have conspired to make this season bright for someone somewhere. You are the better angels of our nature — and our community. Thumbs up to you.

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